Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Return To Responsible Government?

Andrew Coyne writes, in The National Post, that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Canada's three major political parties:

This is our politics, then, at least for the next two years: three parties offering more of the same, saying little, differing less, wholly in thrall to their leaders, and applauded on all sides for their pragmatism and discipline. Bliss is it in this dusk to be alive.

Parties have become empty vessels, waiting to be told by their leaders what they believe. There is, of course, the Conservative Party:

Pride of place, of course, goes to the Conservatives, who have devoted most of the last decade to shedding any vestigial belief systems in the service of electing what they learned to call a Harper government. This was called “moving to the middle,” or in other words giving up, and was greatly applauded by the wisest heads as a sign of maturity. For as long as they continued to believe things they could never win power, and without power they could never put into effect all the things they no longer believed in.

And so the party that was against deficits became for them; the party that wanted to cut spending instead raised it to record highs. The party of tax reform became the party of tax distortions. The party of free markets became the party of corporate handouts and 1970s-style industrial strategy. The party of free trade became the party that banned foreign investment and raised tariffs.

The same thing has happened to the NDP, which used to think of itself as Canada's conscieence:

At this weekend’s convention of the New Democratic Party, the great question to be decided is whether the party will prove itself, in the current phrase, “ready for government.” Much speculation has centred on whether it will bow to the demands of its leader, Tom Mulcair, and renounce its commitment to socialism. But in truth, this is merely part of a larger project of renouncing its commitment to much of anything.

 Perhaps the odd resolution will sneak through that in some way departs from the status quo, the leader’s wishes or the undiluted pursuit of power. At which point the media, those active volunteer enforcers of party discipline, will again descend to ridicule this impudent individuality, this insult to authority, this failure to do as they were told.

Then there are the Liberals. Justin Trudeau says his campaign will be bottom up: He will listen to Canadians and develop his platform based upon the principle that citizens -- not leaders -- control the party. Coyne is not convinced that this is what will happen:

His authority will be absolute, owing nothing to either the caucus or even the membership, but having been elected, in the main, by people with no attachment to the party, whose loyalty is entirely to him, or at least his Twitter feed. As such he will have a free hand to take the party in any direction he likes, which on the evidence is straight into the same valley of indistinction where the other two parties await: so far as he has allowed a glimpse into his thinking, it has been to suggest he would not change much of anything.

If Coyne is right, we are in a very bad place. But, if Justin really does seek guidance from the people, he will re-establish responsible goverment in Canada. That was certainly not his father's template. In fact, responsible government began to wither under the first Trudeau. We are about to learn how Trudeau Two works.


thwap said...

I'm surprised that Coyne didn't refer to the harpercons abysmal treatment of our parliamentary traditions and their rabid war mongering.

For the rest of it, the very stuff he claims the harpercons have abandoned is the sort of free-market, ideological fanatical nonsense that I'm glad the harpercons abandoned.

Coyne almost makes them sound sane and responsible.

Lorne said...

Owen, Coyne's comments capture the despair many of us feel over the chances of real political renewal taking place. Because you and I have been around for a while, I suspect both of us look upon the current enthusiasms over the blank slate known as Justin with somewhat jaundiced eyes.

Owen Gray said...

I read the enthusiasm for Justin with caution, Lorne. I'm prepared to be surprised.

But I'm also quite prepared to be disappointed.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with you, thwap. We're lucky the Harperites can't be taken at their word.

If they actually implemented the stuff they claimed was immutable, we'd be in worse shape than we already are.

The Mound of Sound said...

Harper was open from the outset about his singular goal - shifting Canada's political centre well to the right and for good. He did that and then he waited for the others to fall into line. First the Liberals turned Conservative Lite and now the sanitized remnants of the NDP seek to become Latter Day Liberals. When you have three parties, all vying for the same sweet spot on the political spectrum, it creates a synergy that savages principle in favour of cynical, self-serving compromise. Hello Corporatism, Buh-Bye Democracy. As for us, well we'd better get used to being under the bus.

Owen Gray said...

It's been quite clear for sometime, Mound, who the leaders listen to. Only when corporations like RBC step in it do the exalted make noises about "fairness."

It's getting hard to find anyone who pays attention to "we, the people."

the salamander said...

Perhaps Andrew Coyne would profit by taking a more lucid stance. A humble suggestion being to perceive our current government as a very real manifestation of Pandora's Box.. opened wide. Mulcair, May or Trudeau being boxes yet to be opened.. possibly benign.

At the risk of being repetitious or blunt.. any damn fool should see that neither Trudeau, May or Mulcair has done what Harper has with his failed opportunity to serve Canada.

Despite the smug bluster & denials, the facts are very clear, and I don't need to list the trail of lies, broken promises, attacks, fraud, subterfuge, incompetence, obstruction, failure. They've lurched and slithered from the misbegotten toxic dangerous box the Harper Pandora Party is.. to be unleashed on a stunned and far too naive country and citizenry.

Choose any out of the hundreds of examples. Or just try to list the dozens and dozens of ways that this morally and ethically bankrupt & sneering sanctimonious party demeans and infects in its attempts to destroy everything good about this country.

Coyne is trying to suggest that being currently infected with botulism is no different than possibly catching a common cold, or maybe suffering from future hunger or possibly being exposed to measles two years from now..

Or that eating beef from a cattlebeast with mad cow disease is on par with a future purchase of mouldy bread or drinking milk past its due date. The one is current fact, the others are conjecture.

The malignant cancer attacking Canada and Canadians from within is treatable.. and as any clinician will tell us, a thorough history, & careful examination are critical to accurate diagnosis. The treatment protocol and modality must be initiated accordingly with careful follow up.

With appropriate therapy the prognosis is positive.
Untreated, the prognosis is dreadful.

Owen Gray said...

A thoughtful and -- I would suggest -- accurate analysis of our present situation, salamander.

We really don't know what Trudeau's, Mulcair's or May's lasting impact will be.

But we have already seen what Harper has done -- and will continue to do.